Twenty-seven months in prison, three years supervised release, and $631,050.52 in restitution to victims for obstruction of federal bankruptcy proceedings. That’s the sentence for a Maryland pastor caught hiding church assets and lying to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
Dr. Shine Saves the Seed and Spends the Money
56-year-old Pastor Robert J. Freeman, a televangelist famous for his Save the Seed Ministry, Inc., Save the Seed International Church, and Seed Faith International Church, in Waldorf, MD, was living quite well on his flock’s contributions. That is, until prosecutors charged him with lying in bankruptcy court and secreting church assets for his personal gain.
In 2005, he and his former spouse (Claudette “Dee Dee” Freeman) filed for bankruptcy with over $1.3 million in debts, claiming no assets. In the bankruptcy proceedings, the Freemans falsified evidence and stated they had lost their ministry. In 2006, relying on false information from petitioners, the bankruptcy court approved a discharge of hundreds of thousands in debt. Shortly after the discharge, the pastor persuaded a church member to purchase or lease three vehicles at a cost of $430,000 to that member (that would be two Mercedes and a Lincoln Navigator). And then there was the Maybach vehicle that a member leased for pastor…
As part of his plea agreement in the criminal case that followed, Freeman admitted to having lied to the bankruptcy court. He lied about his employment, about losing his ministry, and about having no assets.
Freeman’s Life of Fraud and Deception
“Dr. Shine,” as he is known, painted a picture of himself as the decent, but impoverished leader of his beloved church. In fact, he was living high on the hog, using money from church members (many of whom were poor) to support his increasingly lavish lifestyle. The pastor’s 9,000 sq.ft. residence was a $1.75 million Potomac waterfront mansion with gym, five fireplaces, garage space for eight cars, deep water pier, 20,000 lb. covered boat lift, and jet-ski lift – certainly nothing impoverished or humble about that.
“Gods Top Gun of Deliverance” convinced church members to take on the liability for the good of the church while he took the assets. He went through millions of his flocks’ money. Individual church members were personally liable for debts on luxury vehicles used by Dr. Shine and parked in his multiple garages. While his sheep faced financial ruin trying to do God’s work and support their pastor, Dr. Shine was living like a king in paradise.
According to U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland, Rod J. Rosenstein, “Freeman lived a life of fraud and deception, using millions of dollars from church members, and fraudulently obtained credit to pay for luxury cars and a mansion while falsely representing in court that he was indigent.”
IRS Special Agent in Charge, Rick A. Raven (Criminal Investigations, Washington, D.C.), was also involved in the prosecution. Raven said “[c]oncealing assets and making false statements in bankruptcy court is a crime… The prosecution of individuals, such as Mr. Freeman, who intentionally conceal assets and commit bankruptcy fraud ranks high on the list of IRS Criminal Investigation’s enforcement priorities. [Freeman’s] sentencing is an example of how serious the courts perceive the violation of U.S. bankruptcy law.”
Never attempt to hide assets and lie to the bankruptcy court!